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 Sketches & Portraits ~ James David Wood

Wood, James David

The late James David Wood was a typical representative of the self-made man, and his successful career from a poor boy to the head of the largest cattle raising concern in the United States is interesting and worthy of a prominent place in the history of the inter-mountain States, where Mr. Wood spent the greater part of his long and useful career.

James D. Wood was a representative of one of the first families of Virginia and Tennessee, and the name was very prominent socially and otherwise during Colonial times and immediately succeeding the period of the Revolution. His mother, Marcia Cassandra Fowler, derived her ancestry from the distinguished physician and mathematician of that name. His father, Jeptha Wood, was an early pioneer in Sullivan County, Missouri, where he was a civil engineer, and later a farmer and stock-raiser of importance; and it was there that young Wood received his first knowledge of the business that was destined to bring him fame and fortune.

James David Wood was born August 27, 1841, and his education was obtained in a log cabin wherein was located a district school, and he was reared on a farm. At an early age he started out in life in the face of hard-ships and many obstacles that would discourage a less determined and courageous boy, but he plodded on and eventually embarked, in a small way, in a mercantile business, opening a village store in his native place.

 In 1861, at the breaking out of the Civil War, he lost all his business and had to seek new fields for his business talents; therefore, obtaining a loan, he began the business of shipping cattle to Chicago, and it is a fact that in the early days he grazed his cattle on the very area where now stand the great skyscrapers and beautiful residences of that city, which is a striking example of the wonderful growth of Chicago during one man's lifetime. In 1863 the placer gold mining excitement in Montana attracted Mr. Wood and a year later he started in that direction, locating first at Atchison, Kansas. Then he contracted to drive a freight train across the plains to Montana, for which he obtained his board. This outfit consisted of twenty-six wagons, with six mules to draw each one. His first salary was $20 per month, and he was glad to get it, though the work was a hazardous one, and it took him seventy-three days and nights to make the journey, being frequently stampeded by Sioux Indians, then very troublesome to voyagers over the plains. Upon reaching Montana, he had sixty dollars in greenbacks, then worth fifty cents on the dollar. He turned his attention to placer mining, with varying success, until in 1868 he went to Salmon City and Leesburg, Idaho, where for a time he conducted a general retail store.

In 1879 he began in the upper Salmon River country both mining and smelting. He was one of the organizers of the Salmon River Mining and Smelting Company, with works at Clayton, Idaho; among his partners being the Omaha and Grant Smelting Company, operators. Since that time up to his demise, he was very prominently identified with the mining and stock-raising business of Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Mexico, and his reputation for honesty and integrity of purpose was second to none in the inter-mountain region.

He was a successful operator in the livestock business, having built up the largest sheep-ranching business in the United States, operating in the States of Idaho and Montana, as well as being the principal owner in one of the largest cattle ranches in the world, the latter located in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. He was also instrumental in the development of the great oil fields in southern California. Mr. Wood also operated a canning factory in Utah, and was prominently and actively connected with many of the best Utah and Nevada mines, and was a factor in the up-building of the great inter-mountain region, of which he can truly be called one of the history-makers and a real pioneer.

Mr. Wood was married in 1872, and had a family of two sons and one daughter. His widow, Catharine Wood, is a lady of charming manner and unostentatious. She has seen all the rigors and hardships which only early pioneering in the West could afford. She is widely and favorably known and esteemed all through the inter-mountain region, where she has a host of friends.


Source: Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, Published by The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909 



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